Welcome to the final part of the Square Interviews. As you are all probably aware, this interview is with Hiroyuki Ito, the director of Final Fantasy 9. Although it does not reveal anything too new, it is nonetheless interesting to look at it from a different person's view. Enjoy!
Famitsu: What does it mean to you that FF9 is going back to the roots?
Ito: I think FF9 will go back to the roots at the same time as standing on top of the rest of the series. It's not simply being nostalgic: it is the most developed [in the series]; however, yes, going back to the roots does mean to be nostalgic, too.
Famitsu: As a combination of a developed dramatic presentation, and nostalgic aspects, what is the aim of FF9?
Ito: What's important is the real feeling of playing a game. That is what I meant by the roots of FF.
Famitsu: Do you want to discover what the roots are?
Ito: Because we are not trying to imitate, the roots are not necessarily in 1 to 8.
Famitsu: Would it be right in saying that it collects all the essences of the series?
Ito: I want to make a uniquely FF9 fantasy world, by getting a little bit of the essences of each game in the series. Players might think, "Did they get that from this game?", but in some ways, it's not from any of them.
Famitsu: What are the enjoyable parts of FF9 to the player?
Ito: The whole thing? For parts we want the player to progress, we will let them smoothly progress; but there will be many parts where players will have to make a choice. I think there will be lots of involved conversations between friends, saying "Hey, did you find that?" or "What did you do in that situation?" The battle system will be like that, and it will show the personality of the player. Such as: "So you're a use-and-discard type, huh?" or "I'm a learn-an-ability type."...and that may be a clue to what it's going to be like, by the way. (laughs)
Famitsu: ! That's very interesting.
Ito: I think by playing through the game, people will realize: "So he's that kind of guy," or "I was this kind of person, was I?"
Famitsu: Will what type of gamer you are affect completing the game?
Ito: It won't. You'll start to gradually see yourself when you play it.
Famitsu: You just said that it's a game where you start to see yourself. Has this got anything to do with the hidden theme of FF9, that Sakaguchi-san mentioned in his interview?
Ito: Maybe a little. There are 8 characters, and I think people will play through it thinking, "What character am I like?" or "With what character do I have an affinity?"
Famitsu: Will making choices be affected by the 8 characters being use-and-discard types or ability learners?
Ito: Not necessarily 8 characters, but what I mean by use-and-discard and ability learners is the way you get involved in the battles...
Famitsu: Regarding the screenshots released this time, and looking at the picture of the weak-minded black mage, is there any link with this idea of use-and-discard or ability learning?
Ito: Really, the most important point will be the relationship between the player and the character, I think.
Famitsu: Will the character become closer to or further from the player's personality, according to the player's stance?
Ito: Yes, maybe.
Famitsu: You are making a new gameplay system, are you not? When interviewing Sakaguchi-san, he mentioned that there is a new battle system...
Ito: It will be a system where you can play however you want...I think there will be a wide range of choices. Just like I have been saying.
Famitsu: You mean, use-and-discard type or ability-learning type?
Ito: Well, maybe something like that. (laughs) I really want to actually play it. I want to find out what type I am.
Famitsu: Are there only two types?
Ito: Those are the two extremes. In between, I feel there will be many types.
Famitsu: Sakaguchi-san was talking a lot about Zidane liking girls, is that so?
Ito: I have put that in. (laughs)
Famitsu: How will new and old fans of the FF series feel when playing?
Ito: They might think, "Yes, this is what I've been waiting for."
Famitsu: Do you mean, that they were able to finally play this sort of FF again, or that they've come this far?
Ito: Maybe both. There might be some feeling of finally reaching this point, but it will be more like, so this is what it's like this time.
Famitsu: Since there are a variety of ways you can battle, because of the different types, will it change things?
Ito: Depends on the amount of players. There might even be a thing only one player is able to find.
Famitsu: So there will be various types of players. Can a player change from a use-and-discard to an ability-learner?
Ito: There...might be...questions from the game itself like "Are you sure?" or "Don't you want to stick at what you've been doing?" when a player decides to change...
Famitsu: So if one change's one's playing style, there will be questions asked?
Ito: Yes. Although anything's possible, I want players to discover their own play style, during the course of the game. To be honest, it's not a "play style", it's just how you play the game. I want people to play by keep making choices during the game.
Famitsu: Sakaguchi-san mentioned the chicken-knife/braveblade as an example; will there be choices like that that trouble the player in FF9?
Ito: There will be plenty.
Famitsu: Do you have anything you would like to say as a director to the fans and players?
Ito: As I too am looking forward to the completion of this game, please look forward yourselves.
Famitsu: Can even you, who knows the secrets of FF9, be able to enjoy it?
Ito: Yes. Although I know everything, such as what I should do in this situation, and knowing what item is hidden in a certain place, I do want to play it. However, I've never played the FF series with the feeling of a player. So this time, I might even buy it on the release date, like everyone else. (laughs) But I won't. Or maybe I will. (laughs)
And that brings us to the conclusion of this 3 part interview with Square, taken from a new issue of Weekly Famitsu. RPGamer hopes you enjoyed reading them. Look forward to an undoubtedly great game. Final Fantasy 9 is scheduled for a July 19 release in Japan, and Fall of 2000 in the US.